I run a small business, just me and a few contractors. We’re good at what we do, but in any line of work small outfits can find it hard to compete with medium to large organisations. One of the reasons we’re still thriving is that my work practices as a business are as good as any large company when it comes to dealing with clients.
No business can afford to be unprofessional for long. Small businesses can’t even afford to be seen as unprofessional. It’s how you approach the business end of what you do that makes you stand out from the pack.
Here are some simple and powerful techniques that I have put in place over the years that helps me get more work, grow my business and show how professional I am to potential leads and clients.
We all get leads but they don’t all turn into customers. If only life was that easy. Your job should be to constantly work to improve your lead to customer conversion rate.
When I started designing websites I had no strategy for lead management. I’d quote a project and wait for the client to get back to me. And because I didn’t have a system in place I often quoted too late, after the decision had already been made. And once or twice I completely forgot to submit a quote.
Then I learnt about customer relationship and lead management.
My first customer relationship management system (CRM) was a spreadsheet with all leads listed along with the current state of play. These days I use a cloud-based system called Pipedrive to do the same thing. There are plenty of other products available for this job, like Salesforce for large companies. The important thing is to have a system, and if you’re on a budget then stick with a spreadsheet or even a notebook. Just remember that tracking leads is the backbone of a successful business.
So now every morning I log in, I check my leads and see if any action is required. I can see when I sent a proposal, if they replied and if I should follow up.
With a planned follow up I now often win projects due to sending three or four timely reminders. This is what professional companies do and sticking to this routine will quickly benefit you.
Even better my CRM is now linked to my quote system, reducing the turnaround time. These two systems are a modest cost to me per month but have paid for themselves many times over.
Requests for business come in all shapes and sizes, from RFPs to short emails saying something like “can I have a website for my dog grooming business?” Avoid quoting any project via email. By all means interact, get the details and work out the scope of the job. But when it comes to quoting and pricing every single piece of work that you do should have a properly documented quote.
I have my quotation process down to a fine art. I use a cloud-based quotation system called PandaDoc. It links my CRM to a number of templates and allows me to generate a nearly 90% accurate quote in under 10-15 minutes. A bit of tweaking and the client gets a quote both quickly and professionally.
This allows you both stand out from the pack as you can and should over time develop a set of proposals that really are clear and well written.
The word contract frightens some people. I blame too many TV courtroom dramas, but there’s no need to worry. The purpose of a contract is simple. It helps you and your client and defines the rules that you work to. Once signed there is no ambiguity and if problems arise you can refer back to it.
Of course, problems rarely do but having a contract is important and once again ticks that professional box.
Always have a contract no matter how small the job. If anything for small jobs it along with your proposal stops the job growing beyond what you quoted.
The invoice will be one of the last times a client deals with you on a project. If you’re hoping they’ll come back for more it’s important to get this right. One of the most embarrassing mistakes I used to make was using Excel for invoicing and accidentally leaving the last client’s name in the invoice. I now use Freshbooks for all my invoicing and that has eliminated that problem completely plus it allows me to tracks how well I am doing.
I know for a fact (because I ask my new clients) that I now win lots of projects because I reply quickly, invoice promptly and send proposals within 24-48 hours. Sure, they can look at my portfolio and see all the good work, but most of my competitors have decent portfolios too. Most of yours will as well. The techniques outlined above will not only help you win work, they will free up your time to allow you to grow your business and to get better at what you do.
So why not start today?
About the Author:
Kieran Daly runs a website design and Internet marketing company that has been delivering great results for over ten years.
He has helped clients all over the world to be successful online. Satisfied customers include multinational companies, local mechanics and even arctic explorers.